Monday, December 24, 2018

Two New Book Reviews: J.C. Paulson's "Adam's Witness," and Jeanne Martinson and Laurelie Martinson's "Change Management Lessons from Downtown Abbey"

“Adam's Witness”
by J. C. Paulson
Published by Joanne Paulson
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$18ftenace and her feisty  loving .99 ISBN 9-780995-975606

Adam's Witness is longtime Saskatoon StarPhoenix journalist Joanne Paulson's first foray into fiction, and the part mystery, part romance novel set in Saskatoon is sure to gain her many fans.

The fast-paced story begins with diligent StarPhoenix reporter Grace Rampling receiving a phone call from Pride Chorus member Bruce, who's upset that his  choir's next-day concert at St. Eligius Catholic Church was suddenly and inexplicably cancelled. Rampling crosses the alley to the nearby cathedral to learn why, and in the dark sanctuary she stumbles upon "a man in clerical clothing right at her feet" who is "bleeding copiously from the head". The bishop's been murdered, and all hell breaks loose. Could the perpetrator be a bitter choir member? A parishioner? Someone within the church? We learn that "the monstrance is missing," and this large sacred vessel (it contains the Host) could, ironically, be the murder weapon.  

What makes this book work so well is Paulson's smart handling of diverse, well-drawn characters, and a two-pronged plot: not only is mid-twenties Grace the key witness (she'll also come under vicious attack), the ambitious reporter also quickly falls for the crime's lead investigator, Detective Sergeant Adam Davis, and he's awfully sweet on her, as well; he replays her taped testimony just to hear her voice.

The pacing is taut. Setting, too, is well-handled. If you know Saskatoon - especially Saskatoon in winter - it's easy to envision the Spadina Avenue cathedral as Paulson's drawn it: "Mist swirling up from the half-frozen river cloaked the beautiful brick cathedral with gothic mystery". Much of the action's set downtown. Rampling meets Bruce at Divas, Saskatoon's long-running gay nightclub, and questions him about the choir members. "They'e angry. It's so offensive. The chorus is a professional group - I mean, most of us are professionals. We don't show up for concerts dressed in drag, for Christ's sake."        

I appreciated the insight into how a news story is filled while reporters wait for more hard facts, and the numerous small details that add realism, ie: when Adam and Grace coincidentally meet at the Second Avenue Starbucks, they discuss "the relative merits of Starbucks over Tim Hortons". The exchanges between Grace and her feisty sister, Hope, are credible and also often humourous, ie: after Grace confesses that she kissed Adam, Hope says she would have, too. "'You would not,'" Grace says, and Hope responds: "'No, I wouldn't. I'm just trying to calm you down'". There is, in fact, a fair bit of tongue-in-cheek lightness to this murder mystery, right down to the omniscient narrator's tone. Chapter Twelve, for example, begins thus: "The forensic pathologist was measuring something on the smashed-in skull of the Bishop of Saskatoon when Adam Davis walked into the reeking but antiseptic room".    

In the book's end notes Paulson explains that the story was inspired by an actual case. "In 2004, Saskatoon's Anglican cathedral cancelled a performance by the local gay choir". (The church later about-faced.) Some fact, much fiction. Adam's Witness will keep you reading.


 “Change Management Lessons from Downton Abbey”

By Jeanne Martinson and Laurelie Martinson
Published by Wood Dragon Books
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$22.00   ISBN 9-781989-078013

Writers Jeanne Martinson and Laurelie Martinson have leveraged their interests in management communications, leadership, the popular British TV series "Downton Abbey," and writing to inform business and organization leaders in the nonfiction title Change Management Lessons from Downtown Abbey. This latest volume is one of a series of "Downton Abbey"-inspired books the pair have collaborated on; they believe the show "provided lessons that can be applied to our world today," and they cite specific examples from the series to introduce how contemporary workplace challenges - specifically change - can be effectively managed.

The cast on "Downton Abbey" (show circa WW1) had much societal change to contend with, including the incorporation of the first basic technologies, like telephones. How did they cope, and what can we learn from their experiences?

Recognizing that change can be difficult for organizations, Laurelie Martinson - a communications and behavior specialist who consults with leaders and introduces change management tools - brought her 25 years of experience in helping facilitate change to the page. Jeanne Martinson is a professional speaker who's been operating MARTRAIN Corporate and Personal Development presentations and workshops in the public and private sectors since 1993. She has also authored 11 books. The two-woman team, both well-educated and well-experienced in assisting leaders with change, diversity, and communications, suggest that part of the corporate change process is also personal: "Change initiatives will only be successful if every person involved manages the change within the organization and within themselves," and that using an "ARC model" - Awareness, Responsibility, and Choice - will aid the transformation.

Each chapter of the well-formatted book begins with a quote from the series. Mrs. Patmore, the cook, is quoted thus: "But Daisy mustn't find out that I don't know how to work it … because it makes her part of the future and leaves me stuck in the past". "It" is an electric mixer. Assistant Daisy embraces the mixer, and Mrs. Patmore fears it. The authors use this example to illustrate how individuals "respond to change differently," and they advise leaders to be cognizant of "the different emotional responses to change". They parallel Lord Grantham's initial reluctance to embrace the telephone with modern day employee reluctance to adapt to new software applications.

An effective organization is like a manor "'house in order'". Roles change with the times, and positions are sometimes eliminated, ie: footman Molesley recognizes that "Service is ending for most of us," and thus he becomes a teacher. Elevator operators and milkmen are history, and today travel agents, for example, may have to specialize in order to stay relevant. Looking toward the future is critical, ie: many people now work from home, so a company's large office space and parking spots are no longer necessary. McDonalds, the fast-food leader, hires several immigrants and it manages the language barrier "by distancing their customers from their employees" via self-serve kiosks and mobile phone orders.

There's much interesting material here, for both leaders and laypeople. Intrigued? See WoodDragonBooks.Com to learn more.